History of the Macedonian People - Revival of the Macedonian State, Language and Culture

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History of the Macedonian People from Ancient times to the Present

Part 17 - Revival of the Macedonian State, Language and Culture

by Risto Stefov rstefov@hotmail.com

It was Herbert George Wells who said that the barbarian invasion of Europe started with the rise of the Great Wall of China. Migrating tribes of Mongolian nomads, who spent their summers on the Siberian plains and their winters in East Central China, could no longer do so because the Great Wall of China blocked them. Unable to go to their traditional lands, the tribes were forced to change their wintering patterns. Unable to cross into Eastern Central China, the Mongolian tribes began a westward movement putting pressure on the people whose lands they invaded. By the time the great wall was finished in the 6th century AD, many of the Mongolian tribes had abandoned their traditional eastern migrating patterns and moved westward.

It is my belief that the Slavs did not move willingly but were pushed out as a consequence of this great wave of tribal migration.

Who the Slavs were and where they came from are still controversial questions, which will be answered in time and with diligent archeological research. In the meantime, there are two emerging theories.

The first and more popular theory is that the modern Slavs are the descendents of the first Europeans. They are identified by many names but are best known as the Veneti. The second theory is that the Slavs of Europe are the remnants of Alexander the Greats' settlers and soldiers. It is well known that Alexander the Great established many cities and outposts wherever he campaigned in order to support his military needs. Settlers were brought from Macedonia and given lands to farm. When Alexander's empire collapsed, instead of returning home, many of his people remained at their outposts and permanently settled the new lands. Archeological digs in India have revealed that Macedonian estates were still in existence two centuries after Alexander's empire collapsed. It is conceivable then that the Macedonian settlers of Europe also remained on their estates, living undisturbed for centuries, and migrated northward as their populations expanded. Being already civilized, the Macedonians had a well-established language and culture, which they disseminated among the native populations from which they employed their workers.

These are, however, only theories and much archeological evidence is needed to validate them. On the other hand, what is certain and well documented is the 8th century revival of the Macedonian language and culture.

As for the language of the Slavs, there are some who believe that the Slavs north of the Danube spoke different languages and only learned the so-called Slav language after they crossed the Danube River. This was also the case with the Huns, Avars and Bulgars. Today's Bulgarians speak a Slavic language as a consequence of being assimilated by the indigenous Slavic speaking population that lived south of the Danube. "The Bulgarians had adopted Slavic language and culture. It is paradoxical that the Bulgarians, a Turkic people who adopted Slavic language and customs, took a significant role in standardizing Slavic writing." (Page 197, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation, Jefferson North Carolina: McFarland, 1997) The reason for adopting the Slavic language was because the majority of the people whom the Bulgars occupied were Slavs, mostly Macedonians. The true Bulgars their Turko-Tartar rulers were only a small minority.

Relations between Tsari Grad and Bulgaria soured when Khan Presian became ruler of the Bulgars in 835 AD. While the Pravoslavs were busy fighting the Muslims, the Bulgar king sought the opportunity and invaded Pravoslav territory, bringing thirty years of peace to an end. A large Bulgar invasion force entered Pravoslav territory and occupied several regions of northern Macedonia. Bulgar encroachment continued up until Boris's reign. By then the Bulgars had occupied a large part of the Strumitsa region and parts of central Macedonia to the Vardar valley. Finally in 864 AD the Pravoslavs intervened but instead of pushing the Bulgars out, they settled for peace. The peace treaty did not free Macedonia but it did put an end to Bulgar expansionism for a while. According to the terms of the treaty Boris was also obliged to accept Christianity as his state religion.

It was during the reign of the Pravoslav emperor Michael III (842-867) that Solun had definitely established itself as the religious and philosophical center of the empire. This was the time when Kiril (Cyril) and Metodi (Methodius) set off on a series of missions to spread the doctrines of Christianity to various places in Eastern Europe and Asia. (Solun up to this point had not been invaded by the Slavs, but the Solunians spoke Slavic).

I just want to mention here that, by the eighth century AD, the Macedonian eparchy was controlled by a Macedonian Archbishopric with its center located in Solun and bishoprics existed in eighteen towns including Lerin, Kostur, Voden and Serres.

The brothers Kiril and Metodi were Macedonians, natives of Solun, who were acclaimed as the apostles of the Southern Slavs and the fathers of Slav literary culture. Kiril, the younger of the two, was given the name Constantine when he was baptized. It was much later when he received the name Kiril.

Kiril was very fortunate to have studied in Tsari Grad at a young age and receive his education from Leo the Grammarian and Photius, a prominent educator at the imperial university. Kiril was an extraordinary student and earned himself the nickname "the Philosopher". After he finished his education he was ordained deacon and later became professor of philosophy at the imperial school in Tsari Grad, where he took over the chair from Photius. Soon afterwards, he retired to the quiet solitude of a monastery. From there, in 861 AD, he was summoned by the emperor, Michael III, and sent on a mission to Christianize the Khazars of southern Russia who lived between the Dnieper and Volga Rivers.

The elder brother Metodi was a well-liked, intelligent man who started his career in his father's footsteps. At first he served in the military in Solun. Later, at age twenty, he became governor of one of the Slav colonies in the Opsikion province in Asia. Then he became a monk and, like his brother, took part in a mission to Christianize the Khazars.

Kiril and Metodi were two of seven siblings. Their father Lev was a prominent Macedonian man who served as assistant to the Solun military commander of the Pravoslav army.

The careers of the Solun brothers took a turn for the better in 862 AD when, Rostislav, the prince of Moravia sent his ambassador to Tsari Grad seeking missionaries capable of teaching his people to read and write in their own language. Rostislav, fearful of his powerful German neighbours, sought the opportunity to strengthen his alliance with the Pravoslavs to counter-balance the German missionary influence in his kingdom. Rostislav preferred the ecclesiastical politics of Photius, now patriarch of Tsari Grad, over those of his western counterpart.

When word came that Emperor Michael was looking for capable missionaries, Photius decided that Kiril and Metodi were the most suitable candidates for the job. The Solun brothers, being Slav speakers themselves, knew the Solunian dialect of the Slav language well and accepted the task.

The old-Macedonian dialect was quite well understood by all the Slav tribes. Unfortunately, teaching the illiterate to read and write was easier said than done. Even though the Slavs had a written form of language described as "lines and incisions", it was not an easy language to learn.

Kiril was familiar with the Glagolic script but that also was too complex a language for illiterate people to grasp quickly. According to Tsarnorizets Hrabar, an advocate of Macedonian literacy, Kiril and Metodi first tried to use the Koine and then Latin alphabets, but proper pronunciation could not be achieved. Slav speech was far too complex to record with just Koine or Latin letters. Kiril was an intelligent man and solved the problem by constructing a new alphabet based on old Macedonian traditions. The pattern and some letters he based on the Koine alphabet but he enriched it by adding new letters. He borrowed some of the new letters from the Glagolic script and some he fashioned from ancient Macedonian symbols that had traditional Macedonian meaning. "Peter Hill argues that Old Church Slavonic was more than merely a written dialect. It is naïve, he says, to imagine that this construction of a written language was possible without established tradition. Therefore it can safely be assumed that there was at least some tradition on which Cyril and Methodius could build. Presumably their familiarity with this tradition derived from the fact that they were Slavic themselves." (Page 198, John Shea, Macedonia and Greece The Struggle to Define a New Balkan Nation, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1997)

When it was completed Kiril's alphabet consisted of 38 letters, each accurately and exactly representing a unique sound in the Slav speech. The phonetic nature of Kiril's language made spelling words very simple. One only needed to learn the alphabet to have the ability to read and write. The same is true to this day.

I just want to mention that there are some references claiming that Kiril was the inventor of the Glagolic script, but they are incorrect. Kiril was familiar with the Glagolic script and had composed Glagolic texts but we now know from recent discoveries of ancient inscriptions that the Glagolic alphabet existed before Kiril's time.

In 862 AD Kiril and Metodi, along with a number of followers, arrived in Moravia in Rostislav's court. They immediately set out to work and to their surprise Kiril's vernacular was not only well understood, but became popular with the Moravians.

The Pravoslav missionaries continued their work for a while, with much success, but were soon handicapped by the lack of Pravoslav bishops to ordain their priests. Also, their popularity with the Moravians displeased the German missionaries who saw them as competition and harshly objected to their presence.

German hostilities reached their peak when the German Emperor Louis forced Rostislav to take an oath of loyalty to him. The German prelate, the bishop of Passau, who had the power to ordain Pravoslav priests refused to do so out of contempt. Unable to continue their work the missionaries were forced to return to Tsari Grad.

On their way back the Macedonian brothers took a detour through Venice where they learned that the Pope had excommunicated Photius, the Pravoslav Patriarch in Tsari Grad. Pravoslav missionaries and their liturgical use of the Macedonian language were vehemently criticized.

In 858 AD Emperor Michael III, on his own authority, deposed Patriarch Ignatius and replaced him with the more progressive Photius. The Pope, however, did not agree with Michael's decision and proclaimed his deeds invalid. At the same time the Pope denounced both Photius and the emperor.

When Pope Nicholas I found out that the Pravoslav missionaries were in Venice he summoned them to Rome. By the time they arrived, however, Nicholas had died and the political situation had changed for the better. In a turn of events Nicholas's successor, Adrian II, warmly welcomed the strangers, especially when he found out that they were bringing him an important gift. Kiril it seems had recovered some relics of Pope St. Clement when he was in the Crimea visiting the Khazars and offered them to Adrian as gifts.

When they arrived, Adrian conducted an investigation and found no misconduct on the part of the Pravoslavs. In his judgment he permitted Kiril and Metodi to receive Episcopal consecration and allowed their newly converted priests to be ordained. He also approved Slavonic to be used in liturgy.

Sadly, Kiril died on February 14, 869 AD in Rome and never made it back home. After Kiril's death Metodi pleaded with Pope Adrian to allow him to take his brother's body to Solun for burial but Adrian would not permit it. It was the wish of Kiril and Metodi's mother that if either son should die, the other would bring the body back for a decent burial in the family monastery. Unfortunately Adrian would not allow it claiming that it would not be fitting for the Pope to permit the body of so distinguished a Christian to be taken away. He declared that a man so famous should be buried in a famous place. Kiril was buried with great pomp in the church of San Clemente on the Coelian, where the relics of St. Clement had been enshrined.

After Kiril died Metodi took over the cause and leadership of the mission from his brother. Having been consecrated, he obtained a letter of recommendation from the Pope and the Holy See and quickly returned to his duties. At the request of Kozzel, prince of Pannonia, who at the time wanted to revive the ancient archdiocese of Sirmium (now Mitrovitsa), Metodi was made metropolitan (Archbishop). He was given a large area of responsibility with boundaries that extended to the borders of Bulgaria. Unfortunately as the political situation in Moravia was shifting Metodi's title and his papal approval did not mean much to the Western missionaries, especially the Germans who began a smear campaign against him. To make matters worse, Rostislav's nephew, Svatopluk, allied himself with Carloman of Bavaria and had his uncle driven out. After that it did not take long before Metodi was in trouble again.

In 870 AD Metodi was summoned before a synod of German bishops. They found him guilty of misconduct, no doubt on trumped-up charges, and locked him in a leaking jail cell. It took two years of pleading before Pope John VIII could get him out. Unfortunately, to avoid further controversies Pope John withdrew his permission to use Slavonic, a barbarous language as he called it, for any purpose other than preaching. At the same time he reminded the Germans that Pannonia was never German and since age immemorial it belonged to the Holy See.

After his release, Metodi continued his work in Moravia but there too he got into trouble. Metodi did not approve of Svatopluk's wicked lifestyle and made his displeasure public. In retaliation, Svatopluk reported Metodi to the Holy See. He accused him of conducting divine worship in Slavonic and of heresy, charging that he omitted the words "and the Son" from the creed. At that time these words where not yet introduced everywhere in the West.

In 878 AD, as a result of Svatopluk's accusations, Pope John VIII summoned Metodi to Rome and conducted an inquiry. Metodi was a serious man, a dedicated Christian, and was able to convince the Pope both of his devotion to his religion and of the necessity to use Slavonic liturgy. Even though Pope John was in agreement with Metodi on most matters, he had certain reservations about the use of the Slavonic language. It seems that some of the western missionaries perceived the Slavonic language as a threat to their own mission and did everything in their power to condemn it. They alleged that, being created by mere men, the Slavonic language was not from God and that God had created the three principal languages, Hebrew, Koine and Latin. Metodi however fought back with equally persuasive arguments, counter-claiming that God did not create the Hebrew, Koine or Latin languages. God created the Syrian language which Adam and the people after him spoke until the flood. Then during the building of the Tower of Babel, God distributed the various languages among the people and created the written form of the languages. His arguments may have bought Metodi some time but he was still in trouble with the German missionaries.

Seeing that he could not easily get rid of him, Svatopluk used his influence as king and persuaded the Pope to appoint Wiching, a known adversary, to work with Metodi. The German (or French) priest Wiching was brought in to assist Metodi as one of his bishops. Wiching was an implacable opponent of Metodi who worked against him tirelessly. This unscrupulous prelate continued to persecute Metodi, even to the extent of forging pontifical documents.

After Metodi's death, Wiching obtained the archiepiscopal see, banished Metodi's followers, and undid as much as he could of Metodi's work in Moravia.

When Wiching was appointed as his assistant, Metodi must have realized that he was fighting a losing battle. In the last four years of his life he took a break from missionary work and translated most of the Bible from Koine to Slavonic.

Metodi died in 885 AD, probably from exhaustion. His funeral service was carried out in Koine, Slavonic and Latin. Metodi was very popular with the people and many came to his funeral to pay their last respects.

I just want to add here that Saints Kiril and Metodi were always celebrated in the lands of their missions and after 1880 they were also celebrated throughout the entire western world.

In Tsari Grad in the meantime, tired of his uncle Bardas, Emperor Michael III had him assassinated and replaced with Basil the Macedonian, whom he elevated to the position of Caesar. About a year later, Basil got tired of Michael and after a heavy drinking bout had him murdered.

Already being Caesar, Basil assumed the position of emperor unopposed in 867 AD. As an emperor, Basil the Macedonian reorganized the empire's finances and justly and fairly managed the empire's administration. He had some luck with his campaigns and recovered some long lost territories in the east from the Muslims. His fleet recovered control of the Mediterranean Sea, driving out the Corsairs. His army managed to drive the Saracens out of Calabria but had little success in Sicily. After his campaigns failed miserably in 886 AD, Basil died without any victories. Basil I was most memorable for staring a Macedonian Pravoslav dynasty that lasted for over two centuries. Basil I was succeeded by his son Leo VI, also known as Leo the wise.

Metodi's death did not end the spread of the Macedonian language and culture as many of his enemies had hoped. In fact, many of Kiril and Metodi's disciples rose to the task and carried on in the tradition of their teachers, spreading Macedonian culture to the Slavs even under the worst of circumstances.

The most famous of the Pravoslav disciples were Kliment (Clement), Naum, Angelarius Sava and Gorazd. Even though Gorazd was groomed to take over from Metodi, the first to rise to the occasion was Kliment, also known as Kliment of Ohrid.

Kliment was one of the brightest of Kiril and Metodi's students and played a pivotal role in their careers. After his banishment from Moravia and Pannonia however, Kliment returned to Ohrid to his place of birth (although some claim he was born in Solun).

Kliment spent the next seven years, from 886 to 893 AD, in Ohrid doing God's work and teaching the Slavonic language. During his stay in Ohrid he was instrumental in founding the Ohrid Literary School and developing the first university in the Balkans and perhaps in all of Europe. It has been said that three thousand five hundred clergy and teachers were educated in the University of Ohrid. But that was not all, Kliment was also responsible for writing poetry and translating other works from Koine to Slavonic.

In 839 AD Kliment was joined by one of his life long friends, Naum. Kliment and Naum were responsible for refining Kiril's alphabet as well as re-writing many of Kiril's works from Glagolic to Slavonic (Cyrillic). Kiril, it seems, had written many works in the Glagolic script in anticipation of using them in his teaching but after finding out that Glagolic was too difficult for lay people to grasp, he opted for the simpler Slavonic which he himself created.

During Leo VI's rule the peace treaty between the Pravoslavs and Bulgars was once again breached. When the Bulgar ruler, Simeon, came to power in 893 AD he resumed aggression in Macedonia. His armies continued to penetrate further west and south and came to within twenty-two kilometers of Solun. A new peace treaty was signed in 896 AD and Leo VI agreed to pay Simeon an annual subsidy of an undisclosed amount to cease his aggression.

After coming to power, in 893 AD, Simeon invited Kliment to Preslav with an offer to make him his son's royal counselor and assistant. The offer however did not materialize due to some demands Simeon had made that seemed unreasonable to Kliment. Simeon had some reservations about making the Slavic language official and requested that Kliment modify it. Kliment of course refused, wanting the work of Kiril and Metodi to stay as it was. Simeon himself was educated in Koine at Tsari Grad and had developed ambitions to take over the Pravoslav empire and become Emperor of a Pravoslav-Bulgar empire.

When the original offer did not work out, Kliment was given a new appointment in the Velika bishopric in a backward province. This was somewhat of a demotion for Kliment but at the same time it allowed him more time to work on his own projects. He continued to translate chants, psalms, festal fragments from the Bible, moralities and so on.

Towards the end of their careers, both Kliment and Naum built churches on opposite sides of Lake Ohrid. Closest to the city, Kliment dedicated a shrine to the holy healer Panteleimon. A little later, near the springs of the Crn Drim River, Naum built a monument in honour of Gabriel and Michael, the archangels.

Both Kliment and Naum were buried in the tombs they had built for themselves. Naum was buried in 910 AD and Kliment six years later in 916 AD.

Naum, like Kliment, was also an important contributor to the development of the Macedonian language and culture. It is believed that Naum was born in Macedonia in 835 AD and had been Kliment's inseparable companion since his earliest youth. As mentioned earlier, Naum was a student of Kiril and Metodi's and was active among the Slavs in Moravia and Pannonia. Naum, also known as Naum of Ohrid, was inseparable from his teachers and fellow pupils and suffered the same humiliation and injustice they did. Their most difficult and fateful moments came after Metodi's death when, under the influence of German churchmen, the Franks attacked the Macedonian missionaries and tortured them. In the words of Kliment of Ohrid's biographer: "Soldiers, stern men because they were Germans and by nature fierce, their fierceness being increased by their orders, took the priests, led them out of the town, pulled off their clothes and began to drag them along naked. Thus by one act they did them two wrongs: dishonored them and tortured them in the icy fog, which had descended on the Danube banks. Besides this, they put their swords against their heads, ready to cut them, and their spears against their breasts, ready to make them bleed, so they would not die a sudden death..." " Subjected to cruel torture, some of the pupils succumbed, while the others, among them particularly Gorazd, Clement, Naum, Sava and Angelarius, were declared excommunicate by Bishop Vihing. Their books were seized and burnt. The younger pupils (about 200) were sold as slaves, while these five were driven out of the country."

On their way home to Macedonia, at the request of Boris the Bulgarian prince, Kliment, Naum and Angelarius (who died shortly afterwards) took a detour through Pliska, Bulgaria. After a short visit they felt it was time to return home and continued their work translating books from Koine to Slavonic. Prince Boris insisted that they remain in Pliska but when he couldn't convince Kliment he insisted that Naum must stay. Having no choice, Naum spent the next seven years, from 885 to 893 AD, in Pliska before returning home to join Kliment.

Leo VI became emperor in 886 AD and for a while busied himself writing a manual on military tactics. He was educated by the Pravoslav patriarch Photius and had been co-emperor to his father, Basil I, since 870 AD. During his reign, the empire prospered and Leo managed to keep the Bulgars at bay, though eventually he had to make concessions in order to halt their slow advance. Besides the Bulgar nuisance there was one unfortunate incident that marred Leo's career, which was a monumental blow to Macedonia. It was the sacking of Solun.

In 904 AD, while unprotected and unprepared for military warfare, Solun was attacked by Saracen Arab pirates. The Solunians put up strong resistance but were overwhelmed and could not avoid defeat. After the city's defenses collapsed it was brutally attacked and mercilessly ravaged for days until it was literally laid to waste.

In 907 AD Leo signed a treaty with Russia to regulate trade between the two powers.

Leo was unfortunate not to have left a male heir. He married four times which got him into trouble with the Church, but in the end he died without an heir.

Leo VI was replaced by his younger brother Alexander, the third son of Basil I. Leo VI made Alexander his co-emperor in 879 AD but ruled by himself until his death in 912 AD.

No sooner had he become emperor than Alexander dismissed all of Leo's advisers and exiled Leo's widow Zoë to a nunnery. Alexander also refused to honour his brother's obligations and pay the Bulgars tribute. King Simeon was not at all pleased and resumed his hostilities against the Pravoslavs. One positive thing that Alexander did was to make his young nephew (Leo IV's son) Constantine VII his co-emperor.

Alexander ruled for only a year before five-year-old Constantine VII succeeded him. Being of young age, Constantine could not officially rule so from time to time relatives and court officials were appointed to act on his behalf. One such official was Romanus I, a soldier of some distinction, who co-ruled with Constantine from 920 to 944 AD.

Constantine VII was considered a good emperor because he brought prolonged stability to his empire. Commerce and the arts flourished during his reign and his world enjoyed prosperity and peace.

It was during Constantine's reign that Simeon's son, Petar, became ruler of the Bulgars in 927 AD. It was at Petar's insistence that the Pravoslavs relinquish a great part of Macedonia to the Bulgars.

Constantine VII's relatively long reign ended in 959 AD and he was replaced by his son Romanus II. Constantine named his son Romanus to honour his trusted friend and co-emperor Romanus I.

Romanus II's reign was active but brief. Unlike his father who sought peace, Romanus wanted military adventures and initiated a period of military activities. He exploited a weakness in the Muslim empire and attacked the Saracens. In 960 AD he recaptured Crete and invaded Cilicia.

Romanus II died in 963 AD leaving two infants, Basil II and Constantine VIII, as heirs. They would share their rule with their mother, Theophano, as regent.

Soon after Romanus's death one of his victorious generals, General Nicephorus, who had campaigned against the Saracens, returned and married empress Theophano. Even though he recovered Cyprus and his armies overran most of Syria for the glory of the empire, his motives towards the throne made him extremely unpopular with the clergy and the court. As his unpopularity grew Theophano decided to be rid of him and annulled her marriage. She then had him murdered.

John (Ivan I) Tsimisces, the man who arranged for Nicephorus's murder forced himself onto the throne and proclaimed himself "associate ruler", to rule on behalf of the two children. He then expected Empress Theophano to marry him but when that did not happen, he had her exiled in a convent.

In time, John, like Basil the Macedonian, made amends for his crime and treated the boys and his colleagues with much respect which boosted his popularity in the court.

The relative peace in the Balkans was again disrupted in 969 AD when the Russian, Sviatoslav, decided to invade Bulgaria. The Russians had been active in the region for a while and were slowly encroaching on Bulgarian territory. The outright invasion was prompted by Petar's death in 969 AD. After Petar's death there was no heir present in his palace to replace him. Both of his sons, Boris and Roman, at the time were in Tsari Grad, held hostage by the Pravoslavs. Upon Petar's death they were quickly returned to safeguard the Bulgar crown but by then it was too late. The Russians were already in Preslav, the Bulgar capital, and they captured the boys.

In the absence of a Bulgar heir, an uprising was organized by the Comitopoloi brothers David, Moses, Aaron and Samoil, sons of Duke-Comes Nikola.

Finally in 971 AD the Pravoslavs organized a counter attack and defeated Sviatoslav in Silistria on the Danube, in two decisive battles. A peace treaty was reached, which not only ceased Russian aggression but also gave the Pravoslavs access into Russia. With Russia as an ally, Christianization of the Russian people was not far behind.

Feeling confident after his victories with Russia, John decided to move his campaign to Syria where the Saracens had been on the move recovering more ground. Unfortunately his career was cut short by his sudden death in 976 AD.

By now Basil II had reached age twenty. He was of age to rule alone, along with his younger brother Constantine VIII, without the need of associates.

Since Petar's rule in 927 AD, even though Bulgarian expansion in the region had halted, Macedonia was still occupied by both the Bulgars and the Pravoslavs. At the time, neither empire had access to resources outside of their own territories and both empires were dependent upon internal means to support their military and administrations. Macedonia's economy, at the time, was mostly rural agriculture consisting of communes operated independently and co-operatively by clan and tribal relationships. Tribal lords ruled over principalities who for the most part were leaders of the co-operatives. As the need for more resources increased in order to support both empires, so did Pravoslav and Bulgar control over Macedonian principalities. The lords who once governed Macedonia independently or semi-independently soon became obedient tools of the occupiers. With time lords were appointed and dismissed at the will of their rulers and only existed to serve them. In addition to the appointed lords, the Bulgars brought their own judges, tax collectors and church officials to serve them.

With the strengthening of Pravoslav and Bulgar rule in Macedonia the decline of tribal self-government among the Macedonians was accelerated. At that time both the Pravoslav and Bulgar states had well formed feudal social relations. More and more agricultural co-operative communes were transformed into territorial communes, which accelerated the division of co-operatively held property. As a result of the clan-link breakdown in Macedonia, new and numerous feudal lords began to appear taking over lands and people. Among them were foreigners and the church. Foreigners from other parts of the empire were granted Macedonian lands and privileges to use the Macedonian population to do their work. Church and monastery land holdings were formed and in time increased through gifts and by means of confiscations. Many Macedonian peasants lost their lands to the church due to defaulting on loans or when being accused of religious crimes.

The establishment of feudal social structures in Macedonia opened the way for mass exploitation not only of the feudal principalities but also of the free peasants who still lived in rural communities. The situation worsened around the middle of the tenth century when the profitable Bulgar wars of conquest came to an end. Having no other substantial sources of income to support the Bulgar military, administrative, court and church systems, the Bulgars turned to feudal exploitation. After everyone took their cut, the Macedonian peasant was left with nothing. Pushed beyond the brink of starvation, the Macedonian peasants revolted in what later became known as the Bogomil movement. Even though it was religious in nature, the Bogomil movement was predominantly a class struggle between the poor Macedonian peasant and his rich foreign rulers. The Bogomil movement was initiated in Macedonia by a Macedonian priest named Bogomil.

It is said that at the dawn of medieval Macedonia two great men arose, Kliment of Ohrid and a priest named Bogomil. The first was an educator and writer whose distinguished work is the pride of Macedonia. The second was an idealist whose heretical theory became a rallying cry for the oppressed in Macedonia and later throughout Europe.

Bogomil was the first to teach religious elements adopted from the Paulician and Marsalian teachings. These beliefs, which forbade taking sacraments, worshipping images, including the cross, and refuted much of the Bible, were probably introduced to Macedonia by the Armenian colonists deposited in Thrace by past Pravoslav emperors. Many of the dualistic, anti-ecclesiastical and anti-feudal characteristics of these movements found their expression in the Bogomil ideology.

The first Bogomil church was built underground, probably by Bogomil himself, to avoid detection and persecution. Bogomil churches served as houses of worship and as schools to disseminate Bogomil doctrines. The Bogomils believed in the existence of a struggle between good and evil and that good would conquer in the end. They maintained that the rich were the servants of the devil and anyone who submitted to them was going against God. According to them, the entire visible world with all its laws and systems had been created not by God but by the devil. They opposed the existence of churches and monasteries, were against the use of crosses, icons and feasts and propagated the belief that man could pray to God without the aid of a priest.

Much of the energy attributed to the rise of the Bogomil movement came from the unbearable exploitation from foreign rulers and the Church.

The Bogomil movement, in reality, was a rebellion against secular feudal lords, the state body and the empires themselves. Foreign rule brought higher taxes, more violence and additional punishment for the common people. Villages grew poorer and peasants lost their properties and means of livelihood. Many were taken prisoner and became serfs and slaves, sometimes in their own lands.

Under feudal ownership the peasants were fully dependent upon their feudal lords. Some historians argue that Kliment of Ohrid's visit to the Bulgar capital and his resignation as bishop a few months before his death was in response to the violence and devastation the Bulgars inflicted on the territory of the Bishopric of Velika.

The swift spread of the Bogomil movement prompted Petar, the Bulgar king, to take measures for its suppression but he did not succeed. Bogomilism was strongest in the territory defined by the triangle of the Vardar River, Ohrid and Mt. Shar. His intervention, however, did cause the Bogomils much suffering. But even the cruelest of methods did not stop the insurrection, which in time spread and became a general people's movement.

Petar's death and the Russian campaigns drastically reduced Bulgar control over Macedonia allowing the Bogomil movement to flourish, at least for a while. In the meantime, eager to exploit the situation, a new force of power was emerging in Macedonia.

In 976 AD, the year emperor John (Tsimisces) died, the four brothers, David, Moses, Aaron and Samoil raised a rebellion. With the collapse of Bulgar rule and in the absence of Pravoslav forces, the rebellion was successful and the four brothers decided to rule their newly established state jointly. Unfortunately, the joint rule did not last too long. Vlach shepherds killed David, somewhere between Castra and Prespa, and Moses died during a siege in Serres.

In the absence of David and Moses a struggle for the throne ensued between Aaron and Samoil. Samoil, being a much more talented leader and statesman, was victorious.

To prevent further problems, Samoil had Aaron and all his family executed, with the exception of Aaron's son Ivan.

After consolidating his power Samoil started a westerly campaign penetrating Thrace, Macedonia and Thessaly right down to the Peloponnesus. Just recovering from its last sacking, Solun was about to be sacked again but Samoil decided to continue south and in so doing he took a large number of towns, including Larissa. Samoil resettled the inhabitants of Larissa in the interior of his state and incorporated the Larissan soldiers into his own army.

From Larissa he removed the remains of St. Achilles and brought them to Prespa, to the island of Ail. Protected by the waters of Lake Mala Prespa, Samoil made Ail his capital and built a magnificent palace on it.

It was no accident that Samoil received his strongest support from the territory defined by the triangle of the Vardar River, Ohrid and Mt. Shar. Samoil's success was fueled by the Bogomil movement and its distaste for foreign rule. In Macedonia the Bogomil movement was particularly influential in the creation of favourable conditions for a liberation uprising and the formation of an independent state. Samoil took full advantage of the situation and established a Macedonian state.

Although Samoil may not have been a Bogomil himself, he accepted Bogomilism and its right to exist in his new kingdom. In turn, the Bogomils ceased to verbally attack Samoil, his upper classes, royal officials and high ranking clergy.

If anyone was not pleased with Samoil's successes it was the Pravoslavs. Samoil, in combination with the Bogomil movement, was perceived as a powerful force and the Pravoslavs wanted it checked.

For the last ten years or so Basil II was attempting to put down insurrections in Asia, ignoring what was happening in his own backyard. But when the threat became too great to ignore, he gathered an army together and crossed over the frontier regions of the Rhodopes and the River Maritsa. There in August 986 AD, at the hands of Samoil, Basil suffered a crushing defeat. Basil lost nearly his entire cavalry, a large section of his infantry and narrowly escaped death himself. A peace treaty was concluded giving Samoil free control of his new territory.

Basil's defeat caused even more internal strife among the Pravoslavs, especially in Asia. The Pravoslav quarrels took attention away from Samoil and opened opportunities to extend his rule to new territories.

In the summer of 989 AD Samoil resumed his campaign and took Berroea (Ber). After that he invaded Dalmatia and declared war on young king Vladimir. When Samoil reached Diocleia, Vladimir fled to the mountains but was persuaded by one of his tribal chieftains to surrender. Samoil took him prisoner and banished him to Prespa.

In much need of resources, Samoil plundered the whole of Dalmatia and took whatever he could find. He then burned the cities of Kotor and Dubrovnik and razed many villages as far away as Zadar. Samoil had no navy and was not able to take any of the coastal towns.

Back in Prespa meanwhile, Samoil's daughter Kossara fell in love with the young captive king Vladimir and wanted to marry him. Not to disappoint her, Samoil gave in and gave her his blessings. Now that he was his son-in-law he gave Vladimir his former kingdom back. As a wedding gift he also gave the newlyweds Dyrrachium and all its territories. He even returned Trebinye to Vladimir's uncle, Dragomir.

Samoil's good deeds not only earned him the respect of his son-in-law but Vladimir also became his ally and loyal vassal.

When the Pravoslav civil war ended Basil decided it was time to terminate his three year treaty with Samoil, which lasted from 987 to 990 AD. War broke out in 990 AD and lasted until 994 AD during which time Basil captured and destroyed a number of Samoil's strongholds.

In retaliation, in late 994 AD, Samoil prepared a siege against Solun during which Gregory Taronites, the city's Governor, was killed. Gregory died while attempting to rescue his son, Ashot, who had been ambushed during a reconnaissance mission. When Basil found out, he was furious and sent Uranus, his Supreme Commander from the west, to investigate. Uranus discovered that not only had Samoil besieged Solun, but he had been plundering the surrounding countryside. He had also been campaigning in Thessaly, Boeotia, Attica and the Peloponnesus. Upset by the situation, Basil ordered Uranus to attack Samoil and put an end to his free reign.

Uranus immediately went in pursuit of Samoil but found the River Spercheius swollen from a flash flood. Unable to cross he camped on the river's bank. As it happened, Samoil's army had also made camp nearby but on the opposite side of the river. Upon his discovery that Samoil was close by, Uranus went in search of and found a safe place to cross. During the night he made the crossing and attacked his sleeping adversary. Being unprepared, Samoil's army was devastated and both Samoil and his son were badly wounded and barely managed to escape.

Victorious, Basil demanded that Samoil surrender. Instead of surrendering Samoil fled to his capital. To convince Basil not to pursue him, Samoil agreed to sign a peace treaty and offered his surrender in writing. But instead of surrendering Samoil had himself proclaimed King.

What Samoil really wanted was the crown of an Emperor but the Pope of Rome, Gregory V, had no intention of creating another Emperor. Samoil could have taken the Bulgar crown, but unfortunately that crown was also in Tsari Grad and out of reach. So, all that Samoil could legally hope for was a mere King's crown.

Even though Samoil's crown was not recognized by Tsari Grad, his coronation gave him international recognition. For the Pope of Rome, this was another chance to erode and weaken Pravoslav rule.

When Basil found out that Samoil was crowned king he became furious and once again dispatched Uranus to destroy him. Unable to engage Samoil in battle, Uranus went on a looting spree burning everything in his path. After three months of mayhem and destruction Uranus failed his mission and returned to Tsari Grad empty handed.

Safe, at least for now, Samoil took the opportunity to marry another daughter, Miroslava, to Ashot, Gregory's son from Solun whom he had previously captured. As a wedding gift he gave the newlyweds Governorship of Dyrrachium with king Vladimir's full approval. The ungrateful Ashot, however, fled to Tsari Grad and for his loyalty was awarded the title of Magistrate, by the Pravoslavs. In the meantime his wife, Miroslava, became a lady-in-waiting at the Tsari Grad court.

Soon after Ashot fled, the city leaders of Dyrrachium broke off relations with Vladimir and surrendered their city to the Pravoslavs.

In retaliation and hoping to stir trouble for Basil in Tsari Grad, Samoil began a propaganda campaign promoting Vatatz, a family member from the Basil Glavas family as his ally. The Basil Glavas family and a number of other nobles had taken refuge with Samoil to avoid persecution from Basil.

Instead of creating trouble however, Samoil's actions further infuriated Basil prompting him to initiate a new military offensive. Taking a route via Philippopolis, Basil destroyed most cities in the region of Serdica. In the year 1000 he dispatched a large army and attacked all fortified cities, capturing Great and Little Preslav and Pliska, near the River Maritsa. In 1001 Basil himself joined the offensive and marched his army by Solun in the direction of Berroea, where he captured Dobromir. Basil then captured Kolidron, near Berroea, and put Servia under siege. In spite of Servia's brave resistance, the city fell into Basil's hands anyway. Nikolitsa, Servia's Governor, was taken captive to Tsari Grad but instead of being thrown in jail, Basil conferred upon him the honour of a patrician. Nikolitsa, however, was not satisfied and fled to Samoil and together they attacked Servia. Basil retaliated and again captured Nikolitsa but this time he conferred upon him the honour of serving in chains in exile in his jail in Tsari Grad.

After subduing Servia Basil took his campaign to Thessaly. He took back and made repairs to the damaged fortresses which Samoil's troops had held. He then refortified the fortresses with fresh Pravoslav garrisons. After that he turned his attention to Voden and took the city by force from the aggressive Governor Drazhan. Drazhan was captured and sent to Solun as Basil's prisoner. Upon his arrival in Solun, Basil dispatched Uranus to Antioch to deal with the Arabs. Uranus was replaced with the patrician David Arijant as Solun's new military commander.

In 1002 Basil made his way to Vidin and after an eight-month siege he broke through the defenses and captured the town. On the same day Samoil forced marched his troops through Thrace, looting and trashing Endrene (Adrianople). If Samoil's intent was to get Basil's attention by trashing Endrene, he succeeded. Basil now moved his campaign to Skopje, where he caught up with Samoil. Unexpectedly Samoil fled without a fight and Skopje's Governor surrendered the city to Basil. From Skopje, Basil took his campaign to the fortress of Pernik where he encountered heavy resistance from the great warrior Krakras. Not only did Basil not succeed in taking the town but he also incurred great losses in the process and was forced to return to Tsari Grad.

As if Samoil did not have enough problems with the Pravoslavs he now made the Hungarians angry. His son, who was married to a Hungarian princess, decided to leave her thus bringing disgrace to his family and an end to the cordial relations between Samoil and King Stephen I. After the embarrassing incident, King Stephen abandoned his alliance with Samoil and joined Basil who had offered him an alliance of his own.

In the recent past, Pravoslav attacks and plundering of Samoil's territory were more frequent and of greater intensity. Samoil felt it was time do something and soon. His chance came in 1014 when Basil's forces were about to enter a gorge in the Rhodope Mountains. Samoil surrounded the gorge with a strong force in what was going to be a surprise attack. Unfortunately Basil must have anticipated Samoil's move and ordered one of David Arijant's generals to force march his troops around Samoil's forces. When a fierce battle broke out between Basil and Samoil, Samoil's army was attacked from the rear and trapped. Unable to withdraw, many of Samoil's soldiers were slain and even more were captured. Samoil himself was saved by his son who aided his escape to the fortress of Prilep.

After his victory Basil rounded up all his prisoners and had his soldiers gouge their eyes out. According to accounts there were fifteen thousand Macedonian soldiers captured that day. To lead the blind soldiers back to Samoil, Basil ordered that one out of every hundred men be left with one eye intact.

This was indeed a gruesome act, a real tragedy not only for Samoil but for Macedonia as well. Shaken by the sight of this tragedy Samoil died of shock two days later. Samoil was succeeded by his son Gabriel Radomir.

When Samoil died in 1014, his kingdom was vast and included the whole of Macedonia (except for Solun), Thessaly, Epirus, the coastal sclavenes of Oiocleia, Travunya and Zachlumia, the Neretva region (excluding the islands) as far as Cetina, Serbia, Bosnia and a considerable part of Bulgaria.

For the most part, the majority of the population living in Samoil's empire was Macedonian with large Slav pockets south of Olympus down to the Peloponnesus. To a lesser extent there lived Bulgars, Serbs, Croats, Romani, Albanians and Vlachs. Additionally there lived migrants such as Vardariot Turks and Armenians who were recently settled there by former Pravoslav emperors and some by Samoil. While many Armenians existed in Thrace, Samoil had also settled some in Pelagonia, Prespa and Ohrid. The Romani were known to exist mostly in coastal regions.

Samoil's kingdom was a newly created state with a completely different nucleus of people and with completely different domestic and foreign policies than any of his neighbours. The centre of Samoil's state was in the far south of the Balkans, inside today's Republic of Macedonia.

Samoil had a number of capitals which he used from time to time. During his reign Samoil moved his capital to several places including Prespa, Ohrid, Prilep, Bitola, Pronishte and Setin, all of which were inside Macedonia.

According to ancient sources, very little is known about the socio-economic conditions and the organization of Samoil's state.

It is likely that the majority of people in Samoil's kingdom were peasants, most of whom were freemen, but those working on the feudal estates were either serfs or churchmen. The serfs worked on both secular and church lands while churchmen worked exclusively on church lands. Being of a slightly better social class, the churchmen were exempt from heavy taxes. However, the churchmen were obliged to donate extra labour, probably in community service, in lieu of taxes.

The noble class in Samoil's state was made up mostly of feudal lords and aristocrats who were allied behind Samoil and supported his policies. After his death the alliances began to erode and the nobles went their separate ways in pursuit of their own interests which led them closer and closer towards the Pravoslavs.

Slavery was rarely practiced but on occasion slaves were captured and sold, usually outside the kingdom. The main source of slaves was prisoners of war. It is well known, for example, that Samoil enslaved the population of Larissa after their city fell.

Most of Samoil's income came from imperial land-holdings, sale of livestock, judicial fines and military plunder. Samoil's treasury contained many valuables including gold and money. Having no coins of his own minted the currency circulated in Samoil's kingdom was Pravoslav.

As for his military makeup, Samoil was supreme commander and enlisted his forces almost exclusively from his own kingdom. He had an enormous army consisting of both infantry and cavalry. Samoil was an able strategist who personally took part not only in planning but also in executing battles. For the most part, Samoil's weaponry and military dress was similar to the Pravoslav. His soldiers wore a short outer tunic, trousers and a shirt of steel. They also wore a helmet with a pivoting extension which could be lowered down to the chin to protect the warrior's face. Each soldier was armed with a defensive shield, long spear and sword. Other accessories included bugles and standards. Besides his regular army, Samoil also employed his own bodyguards. Samoil had no navy or any type of war vessel.

The official language of Samoil's kingdom was Macedonian (Slavonic) although Koine was also used occasionally as the language of diplomacy at the imperial palace.

Samoil built some of the most significant buildings in his kingdom including the Basilica of St. Achilles, his various palaces and a number of churches situated in the southern parts of his kingdom.

The famous and historic Archbishopric of Ohrid was created during Samoil's reign. Initially the Archbishopric was seated in Prespa but when Samoil moved to Ohrid, he brought it with him. Ohrid became his capital as well as his religious center. After its consolidation, the new archbishop was given authority over all bishops who fell under Samoil's jurisdiction. Unfortunately the Pravoslavs refused to recognize the Archbishop of Ohrid, probably because the Roman church, which crowned Samoil, had consecrated it.

During Samoil's rule the Macedonian church was quite popular and the clergy, especially the bishops, enjoyed their privileged positions.

When Basil II found out that Samoil had died, he marched his army to Polog via Solun and razed Samoil's imperial palace in Bitola. His troops stormed Prilep and Shtip bringing devastation to everything that stood in their path.

In the spring of 1015 Basil set out for Voden and subdued an uprising. He then moved the town's inhabitants to Voler. He garrisoned Voden with Pravoslav lancers (mounted soldiers armed with long spears) and dispatched two of his military commanders to the Meglen region to seize the town. The siege turned out to be more difficult than expected and the conflict drew in Basil himself. The town finally fell and was destroyed.

To draw the war away from his kingdom, Radomir, Samoil's son and heir, decided to attack the Pravoslavs in their own territory. He would have succeeded had it not been for Vladislav's treachery. It seems that Basil secretly promised Vladislav (Radomir's nephew) the Macedonian crown and convinced him to murder his uncle. Vladislav slew Radomir in 1015, somewhere near Ostrovo, during a hunting expedition.

On his accession, Vladislav took a vow of loyalty to Basil and became a vassal king of the Pravoslavs. After his accession, Vladislav went after Vladimir, Samoil's son-in-law, his only remaining opposition. With the help of the wretched Archbishop David, Vladislav enticed Vladimir to come to Prespa, where he was murdered.

With no internal opposition, Vladislav now consolidated his power and immediately broke off relations with Basil. Basil in turn declared war on the Macedonian kingdom and went in pursuit of Vladislav.

While his military commanders were devastating Pelagonia, Basil set out for Ohrid. On his way forces loyal to Vladislav engaged him. To minimize his losses and create fear among Vladislav's allies, Basil ordered the gauging of the eyes of all those caught fighting against him.

In spite of heavy opposition, Basil took Ohrid and set course for Dyrrachium. On his way news reached him that Ivets, one of Vladislav's military commanders, had completely routed Basil's army in Pelagonia. Basil abandoned his course for Dyrrachium and immediately went in pursuit of Ivets but was unable to engage him in battle. Basil then left for Solun and from there went to Mosynopolis on a totally different campaign.

For a while Basil was busy fighting a war against the Khazars in the Crimea and it was not until the middle of the following year, in 1016, that he was able to renew his Balkan offensive. This time he made his way via Philippopolis to the district of Serdica and surrounded the fortified town of Pernik for a second time in fourteen years. The siege was taking too long so Basil left again for Mosynopolis and then, in the spring of 1017, invaded southern Macedonia by way of Solun. He again dispatched his two commanders to Pelagonia while he himself set out for Kostur. On his way he received news that the great warrior Krakras had allied himself with Vladislav and that the two intended to invade Pravoslav territories.

Basil immediately halted his advance and went in pursuit, razing and burning several fortresses on his way. When he arrived in the vicinity of Ostrovo, Basil captured Setina immediately and dispatched his elite detachments in pursuit of Vladislav. Basil followed with the main army. The sight of the huge Pravoslav army struck panic among the ranks of Vladislav's soldiers, especially since Basil threatened to gauge their eyes out. Defeat for Vladislav was inevitable but, for reasons unknown, Basil withdrew his pursuit and returned to Tsari Grad in January 1018.

Vladislav, in the meantime, regrouped his army and took the offensive with aims of occupying Dyrrachium and taking possession of Vladimir's lands. Unfortunately Vladislav was killed during the city's siege.

As soon as Vladislav died his commanders sent Basil a letter offering him their allegiance and the surrender of the fortresses and towns in their possession.

After taking possession of some sixty or so fortresses and towns, Basil went to Ohrid and took possession of Samoil's extremely rich treasury.

Even after Vladislav's fall, some of his loyal supporters like Fruzhin, Vladislav's eldest son, and the Dukes Ivets and Nikolitsa, refused to surrender. Fruzhin took a diplomatic approach and eventually surrendered and was given a pardon and title. Ivets resisted and set camp in Southern Prespa in an attempt to organize an insurrection. Unfortunately, through deception, the Pravoslavs capture Ivets, gauged out his eyes out and cast him into prison.

Nikolitsa too refused to surrender but after being surrounded with no hope of escape, he yielded to the Pravoslav emperor and received a prison sentence in Solun.

By August 1018, Basil II succeeded in destroying the last remnants of Samoil's forty-two year reign (976-1018) of his Macedonian kingdom.

By now Basil II was an old man and after finishing with Samoil, he took his campaign to Armenia. Some historians believe this was a mistake. By destroying Armenia he destroyed an effective buffer zone between the Pravoslavs and the Islamic powers.

Basil II died in 1025 and so did the revived strength and energy of the Pravoslav Empire. Basil was succeeded by his younger brother Constantine VIII, the last prince of the Macedonian dynasty. Constantine died in 1028 and for the next twenty-six years the Pravoslav emperors were the successive husbands of Constantine VIII's daughter Zoe. Zoe, Romanus III Argyrus (1028-1034), Michael IV (1034-1041), Michael V Calaphates (1041-1042) and Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1054).

To be continued...

And now I leave you with this...

Is the Koine language Greek? Some of you have asked this question.

The Koine language may have ancient words and letters that belonged to the ancient city states but it is not exclusively Greek. I don't believe the Greek language is exclusively Greek. Most of the letters in the Greek alphabet are borrowed from the Phoenician alphabet.

The Koine language was created out of necessity by Alexander the Great. During Alexander's reign, there was no common or international language to bridge the needs for communication between the various cultures in his growing empire. Koine was born out of necessity. It may have begun as a Greek language but in time it evolved and took many foreign attributes. Those who understand Attic and Koine will tell you that the two are separate and distinctly different languages. The alphabets may have similarities but the vocabularies are not. Koine, at most, may contain 40% ancient Attic elements but the other 60% are foreign elements, mostly Macedonian.

I just want to point out that the modern Greek language of today has its roots not in the Attic but in the Koine language. The Attic language died many centuries ago but Koine survived through the Macedonian institutions and through the Pravoslav Church. I must also add that Koine was not the natural language of the modern Greeks. The vast majority of 19th century modern Greeks did not speak modern Greek (whatever that may be?). The modern Greek language was imposed on the Greek population through the schools and educational institutions.

Also, please do not confuse ancient Greek with modern Greek. Modern Greek is an imposed adaptation of ancient Greek. In other words, modern Greeks have usurped the ancient name and ancient language in order to lay claim to the ancient heritage. If I may add, the Greeks have also usurped the ancient Macedonian heritage at the exclusion of the Macedonians.

If the truth be known then, the modern Greeks speak a language fostered by the ancient Macedonians, which in my opinion, makes it Macedonian.


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You can contact the author at rstefov@hotmail.com